ARTICLE

"Honest mistake" by city leads to $50,000 in water damage

City is now the reluctant owner of a vacant house and is selling it "as is"

CEDAR RAPIDS — The city is now the reluctant owner of a water-damaged house at 1517 Second Ave. SE, but this particular property is on high ground and nowhere near the areas flooded in 2008.

In April, the city agreed to buy the vacant house, built in 1910 and divided into four apartments, after the city accepted responsibility for a frozen and broken water line that caused about $50,000 damage to the house in November 2011.

The city paid $46,785 for the house, the amount the owner had left on the mortgage, after it received quotes of $49,645 and $51,110 to repair the damage. The City Assessor’s Office has assessed the home’s value at $52,140.

The City Council this week agreed to put the house up for sale “as is” via sealed bid.

This week, too, Pat Ball, the city’s utilities director, explained  that the owner asked the city to shut off the water supply to the vacant house as winter was coming on in 2011. A city Water Division employee went to the house, turned off a value he thought fed the house and then checked an outside water faucet to make sure the water had been shut off, Ball said.

However, Ball said the city worker turned off the wrong outdoor shut-off value. At the same time, the outside water faucet had been turned off inside the house by the owner and so fooled the worker into thinking that he had shut off water service to the house, he said.

“It was an honest mistake,” said the city’s utilities director.

In the future, Ball said the city likely will have a property owner on site to make sure that shutting off water service to a house, in fact, has shut off water inside the house.

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